In a recent conversation, Peter Hong just asked me, so you consider yourself Asian-American or Korean-American?
Not wanting to feel stupid, I hesitated to answer in wonderful Ray Romano fashion, and parried, "Well, what would you say you are?"
The answer across the phone came deadpan, "Well, I would say that I used to be Korean-American until a couple of years ago, and then I made the transition to become Asian-American."
Peter catches me off-guard sometimes with the utterly profound, and this was definitely one of those times where a positively laughable sentence when it first registered my ears, made me stop and think to become quite profound. However, because my manager is Jewish these days, I've learned to try and respond with a question.
"Why did you feel that transition was necessary?"
"Well, I used to be very pro-Korean, only cared about Korean people, and Korean issues. Didn't like the Japanese, that kind of thing. But a few years ago, I stopped. Now I consider myself to be more Asian, more open to other cultures."
I began to see what Peter Hong meant. You see, you could be too tightly wound up in a specific ethnicity to be Asian American. It's the subtle difference between "he's African-American" vs. "That dude's from Nigeria". Suddenly there's this layer that comes off to let you know that maybe you could relate, or not. Interestingly enough, to that end most Korean-Americans, I would say, are not Asian-Americans yet. They play too hard for their own team, and therefore, they want to keep playing in their own leagues, championing their own churches, helping their own peoples. But it's not just the Koreans, doing that. I know that the Chinese have their own churches, and the Japanese have their own and the Hmong have their own, and the Vietnamese have their own, so on and so forth. But question, if the most churched. and therefore, theorietically the most transformed and Christ-influenced culture continues to be focused on itself, why should the other cultures be impressed otherwise?
At what point do we make that jump from Korean-American to Asian-American?